Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Digging for gold in the snow

I worked up the courage to uncover the most protected cold frames today. It was hard to get to them: when the neighbors cleared the snow from their driveway, they heaped it onto our lot. The cold frame area is surrounded by a three foot deep dyke of snow.

I have not yet opened the frames (there is still snow around the edges, and the space is so tight that I can’t easily get to it). But I got the snow off, and pulled back the protective tarps, and now light can get into the plants. They have been in the dark for….well, I forget just how long they have been covered up. The sunlight is intense at this time of year: it’s really pleasant to be outside now when the sun is shining – it’s actually very warm on the skin. And since almost everything is still snow covered, the overall light intensity is terrific.

Now that I’ve had a look, I can say that the news is good: there are no obvious signs of cold damage. At least one of the Chilean Tropaeolum (I’m obsessed with these this year) looks fine – I can’t see the other one yet.

From what I can see, everything looks just as it did when I covered things up before the last big snowfall. Not all of the plants in the frame are bulby things: there are some gerberas (in bloom) which seem to be taking to cold frame life very well. The big red Persian cyclamen is entering its fourth month of bloom. Some garden forms of Primula vulgaris seem to be in suspended animation: they don’t seem to have changed in weeks – the bright flowers go on and on.

The biggest surprise from this effort today came not from a plant actually in the cold frames but rather from one which grows wedged between the two cold frames: Iris unguicularis has a nice fat colorful bud up. And when I went in closer to examine this, I could see another flower of this iris which had evidently bloomed under the tarps and was not withered. This one is a real trouper!

What I call my Christmas snowdrop, which has been blooming since mid-December, is still blooming.

And a rooted cutting of Daphne odora is blooming sweetly.

Mourning doves, northern cardinals, Carolina chickadees and titmice were all singing this morning. The birds are obviously responding to the increasing length of the day rather than to the immediate conditions here in the garden.

In mid-April I probably would not take a second look at any of these things. But when you have to dig them out of the snow, they’re precious!

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